Georgia's pace of reforms is “positive” but there are “some concerns on some issues” and the road to NATO membership is “long and winding,” NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said after talks with President Saakashvili in Brussels on February 27.
A NATO assessment team that paid a five-day visit to Georgia last week evaluated Georgia’s progress regarding commitments made under the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO.
“A team which came back from Tbilisi came back on positive notes… There were some concerns on some issues. I discussed them with the President. Georgia is working hard on them as well,” NATO Secretary General Scheffer said.
Scheffer said that NATO “will not derail Georgia” from the path of NATO integration and Georgia “will certainly not derail itself,” but added that the “road to NATO membership is long and winding.”
“Continue reforms, use the Intensified Dialogue to the full; use the Individual Partnership Action Plan to the full; stay in close touch with NATO – that is an essential part of the road Georgia has so firmly decided to travel,” he said.
He also said that NATO supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and added that there is “an absolute need for peaceful resolution” of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts.
However, he added that “NATO is not seeking a direct role in the solution of these conflicts.”
Remarks made by Scheffer on February 10 that the alliance should come “closer to honoring the ambitions of Ukraine and Georgia” by 2009 was described by President Saakashvili on February 12 as an announcement of the date for Georgia’s accession to the North Atlantic alliance.
But at the joint news conference with the NATO Secretary General, President Saakashvili refrained only said that there is no need to speculate about the timeframe of Georgia’s NATO integration.
“We had your [NATO] assessment mission recently and the overall assessment is overwhelmingly extremely positive, and we are happy with it. That means that Georgia is on the track for [NATO] accession. Now we do not want to speculate about it further than that, but we are on the track and nobody should derail us and we will not derail ourselves from that track; we still have to do our homework, we still have to work on our reforms,” Saakashvili said.
NATO Secretary General said that it “is difficult to say” anything specific about a time frame.
“I never give time frames, or dates, or month, or year; it is a performance-based process… And Georgia has performed well and it is performing well,” Scheffer said.
“Go on working and at a certain stage other steps will follow,” he added.